“ In order to be able to hit hard, you have to hit hard ”
What do I mean by this? The only way you will have the ability to hit with your entire body and power is by conditioning the bones by hitting hard targets. Targets that may be hard physically to move due to their weight and size, as well as targets that have hard surfaces which toughen the bones and the mind to endure the pain.
One of the most unique and essential elements to Kung Fu is the iconic iron body conditioning skills. Through years of training and consistent daily practice we turn our bodies into a weapon that is able to deliver a strike or block with full power in order to damage our attacker. Kung Fu focuses on conditioning the fists, hands, arms and legs extensively. In order to block an incoming strike you have to be able to do so with confidence that you can withstand a blow without wavering. The ability to not just block a strike effectively but also inflict extreme pain to the opponent while doing so is also just as important. Conditioning the fists to hit is done by strengthening the wrists and forearm muscles. The wrists must be strong enough to hold firm and straight to keep the proper alignment in the arm and to not buckle. The knuckles are conditioned by striking solid surfaces like canvas bags filled with a progressively harder filling inside. In the beginning stages of this training the bag may be filled with beans or rice, later they can be filled with sand and also rocks. In the advanced stages after the bones have become more dense and strong, you can strike bags filled with iron balls or solid brick or wood blocks. This takes many years and must be done slowly and consistently so you do not damage the nerves and sensitivity. This same type of training is also done on the forearms and shins to develop the bone density and toughness required to strike with and block with. The arms and legs will naturally develop this conditioning over time through steady partner training and sparring. As you practice it is very common to bang your arms and shins to the point of developing large contusions and bone bruises. Kung Fu uses a liniment called Dit Da Jow, or hit fall wine. This is a blend of herbs and alcohol that have been aged. The dit da jow is applied to the bruised areas to properly heal the bones and remove the blood stasis that develops.
Many combat sports such as boxing and MMA do not focus on this type of training. In a sport fighting environment the goal is to have the hands wrapped as tightly as possible with padding between and over the knuckles to keep the bones from shifting. This wrapping is firmly tightened all the way down the wrists, even before they put gloves on. Even the gloves themselves are also taped around the outside over the wrist joints. This is all done for the sole purpose of keeping the hands and wrists locked into a fist with the wrists bound tight to not be injured by bending on impact. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s very smart and has been perfected over many years of sport fighting history. As a fighter gets fatigued it allows them to lay into every punch with as much power as they may have without having to work to maintain the wrists, while supporting the knuckles to last up to 15 rounds in some cases. But this does not develop the type of conditioning that will be needed in a bare knuckle fight for your life. If you throw a punch and break your wrists or bones in your hand, it could cost you your life on the street.
The difference between getting hit by someone who has not conditioned the knuckles and someone who has is significant. Just one hit from someone who has spent years hardening their bones can be enough penetrate into the body breaking ribs and damaging organs.
In Kung Fu we do not simply hit the skin and muscle on the surface, we aim to do deeper damage into the body.